Today, my employer contacted my doctor without my permission

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KillerPenguin
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28 Jul 2014, 5:59 pm

Yeah. It's a long story but basically last week my work decided to ban all cell phone usage, even using it for music. This is a problem for me because I work in a loud area, with a boss that screams and curses constantly and I am hypersensitive to sound, especially certain pitches. So when I went to my doctor, I explained my problem and he wrote me a note to allow me to use my phone as a radio, played at low volume, because that's how I cope with my anxiety. Now, you may be asking, "why not use an actual radio?" Well, there are two problems with that: 1) my area barely gets reception and 2) radio noises actually cause me anxiety. My tastes in music are very peculiar because of my sensitivity and all we can sort of pick up on the radio is country, pop, and this easy listening thing. Those things make it worse. On top of that, I can't take the radio announcer voice and screaming commercials. So I explained this to my doctor and he agreed, the phone is best. (Also, as for why I don't get an mp3 player--I make just over minimum wage. I don't have the funds to buy an mp3 player and I can't have headphones.) I gave my note to my employer and they were pissed. So today, the big boss contacted my doctor and got him to fax a note saying a radio was fine. HE TALKED TO MY DOCTOR WITHOUT MY PERMISSION. He never asked me directly about my disability, he never made an attempt to understand what the issue was. He went behind my back and now the entire office knows about my issues. Is there someone I should contact? Someone with knowledge about autistic legal issues or something? My father has contacted a lawyer, but now I'm paranoid that I'm overreacting. I don't think I am but....yeah. Any feedback would be appreciated



LostWayfinder
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28 Jul 2014, 6:17 pm

IANAL but I thought HIPAA protections protected patients' medical data with unauthorized third parties? Your father may be right to contact a lawyer about this. If your boss was angry and violated your medical privacy and is paying you just over minimum wage, they are exploitative capitalists of the worst order. Such capitalist predators only understand the power of the law forcing them to show some humanity.



AspieUtah
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28 Jul 2014, 6:39 pm

Well, maybe or maybe not.

You described that your provider "wrote me a note to allow me to use my phone as a radio" and that you "gave my note to my employer[.]" By giving the provider's note to your employer, you permitted your employer to know the contents of the note (recommended use of your phone for music, and, presumably, the provider's name and contact information). To verify the note, your employer needed to contact the provider for written confirmation of the note. Fair enough so far.

However, anything that the provider described about you and your patient history beyond the content of the note would be a breach of HIPAA and patient privacy. Any questions which your employer asked of the provider (and the provider answered) beyond the scope of the note would also violate HIPAA and patient privacy. And, any facts about you and your patient history which your employer has shared with other employees would definitely violate HIPAA and patient privacy.

Good luck.


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LoveNotHate
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28 Jul 2014, 7:59 pm

Your employer is paying for the medical care at this doctor ?

If so, in my experience, the employer sees everything. My past employer would know every prescription, and diagnosis I got.


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KillerPenguin
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28 Jul 2014, 8:03 pm

Thanks, guys. I know the employer can check the note, my issue here is that the doctor changed what he originally said, faxed it to the employer (not to me, the patient) and had the employer deliver the news to me. I was not informed or involved in any of this. Additionally, I warned my doctor that my employer, the owner of the company and his family that fill the company did NOT understand Aspergers and what it meant to have it. They obviously have no interest in expanding their knowledge and I'm now so stressed out that I'm going to have an anxiety attack at work that I've made myself sick. I'm actually a really good employee. I've increased their productivity, I've saved them tons of time and money by learning to fix the machines we use, my work is correct ( a rarity in this shoddily run company), so I'm pretty upset that an environment in which I was doing quite well has now become hell.



Cvulgaris
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28 Jul 2014, 8:31 pm

According to HIPAA, it doesn't matter who pays for the visits or the insurance. Your medical records are your business alone, and the doctor has no right or obligation to tell your employer anything past confirming what he already put in writing for you to give to your employer. You have to sign a records release authorization in order for ANYONE to see your medical records, unless you are a minor. Even as a medical receptionist (my job), this part is really stressed. No one but the patient gets any information without written consent.



KillerPenguin
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28 Jul 2014, 8:56 pm

No, I do not have insurance through my employer. They are not required to because they employ less than 50 people. I pay for it myself, they have nothing to do with my medical care.



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28 Jul 2014, 9:32 pm

You can visit a lawyer that offers free consults to get an opinion. Actually visit more than one because as you well know, the free consults are just a way of them sniffing out which cases can be profitable for them. However, you will get the info you need: is there a legal case against the employer and doctor because of this.

I see the following issues:

1- The employer contacted the doctor for reasons other than to confirm the doctor had issued the note. As far as I'm aware, neither the employer nor the doctor should in any way or form discuss anything medical period. Only the 'did you write this note for my employee?' and 'yes/no' should have been the extent of the question and answer allowed.

2- The doctor changed the contents of his note without consulting you. Patient confidentiality was breached big time with this.

The good thing is, you DO have a paper trail from both the doctor and the employer concerning this. If the lawyer can build you a case you should win it easily enough. You may lose your job and have to find another doctor but you may get some money from the lawsuit to compensate for that plus knowing that both of those parties messed with a person who will not take it in the ass (figure of speech).



KillerPenguin
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28 Jul 2014, 11:49 pm

Thanks for all of the input and information, I really appreciate it. In addition to contacting a lawyer, I've contacted an autism advocacy group here in Louisiana to see if they can give me any advice, and I'm fairly certain my mother is going to rip the ass of anyone at work she can get a hold of (we work at the same place) and then move on to my doctor. I'm taking a vacation day tomorrow because I'm afraid to go back, which is so so so lame.



Stoek
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29 Jul 2014, 2:36 pm

Get a mp3 player for the love of god.

You can get one at walmart for twenty bucks.

Your really doing us all a disservice by using a phone.

If the system graciously give you special status you should have the respect to not abuse it.

Its just bad publicity for anyone involved.



Janissy
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29 Jul 2014, 3:22 pm

It isn't terribly clear if HIPAA was broken or not.

On the one hand, the employer and doctor both went beyond confirmation that the note was legitimate- a yes/no question as another poster said.

On the other hand, there is only evidence of the employer asking and the doctor answering if a radio is an acceptable substitute for a cell phone. That's exchanging information about source of music, not medical records.

The doctor changed his note without notifying you. I have no idea if that is legally allowed or not. It might be. It might not be.

So it is by no means an airtight case. A lawyer will know for sure.

I tried to google up some info on the applicable laws and found this:
http://hrinsider.ca/wp-content/uploads/ ... r-2012.pdf

For some reason I can't copy/paste from the pdf so I'll paraphrase from it (it is directed at employers in the U.S.): It is legal for an employer to ask what are the employee's capabilities, restrictions and needs. It's not legal to ask the actual diagnosis. I can't figure out from that if it's legal to ask the doctor if a slightly different accomodation is ok.

I also found something which doesn't entirely answer the question of "is a doctor allowed/not allowed to change an accommodation without notifying the patient?" but it does make it sound like there isn't a good case for HIPAA violation.


http://www.foley.com/files/Publication/ ... Law360.pdf

Quote:
The employer does not need to just accept the doctor?s conclusory statements. An employer has a right
to get as much information as it needs from the employee?s doctor to respond properly to the
accommodation request. Sometimes a simple phone call to the doctor?s office may work.

......which sounds a lot broader than an employer only being legally allowed to verify the doctor did write the note.

I looked on Amazon and there are mp3 players for less than 20$ so it should be possible to get an affordable one.



MjrMajorMajor
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29 Jul 2014, 3:45 pm

Cvulgaris wrote:
According to HIPAA, it doesn't matter who pays for the visits or the insurance. Your medical records are your business alone, and the doctor has no right or obligation to tell your employer anything past confirming what he already put in writing for you to give to your employer. You have to sign a records release authorization in order for ANYONE to see your medical records, unless you are a minor. Even as a medical receptionist (my job), this part is really stressed. No one but the patient gets any information without written consent.


This. I had to sign a release just for my psychiatric office to communicate with my medical doctor. Other than verifying the specific needs spelled out in your note, I don't see how any other information should be released without your consent, or modifications made to accommodations without your knowledge or input. I'd be upset, too.



KillerPenguin
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29 Jul 2014, 5:15 pm

You guys are adorable. So far, an mp3 player will not be allowed. Plus, I'd have to purchase mini speakers, a really good case (work is messy, rough, and everything that goes up there gets ruined), and a wall charger. It adds up and if they're not going to provide a damn air conditioner for my office (I live in the Deep South, btw) or upgrade my system (running Windows 98--old school, yo) or even buy decent pencils that don't snap in half when you put them to paper, and they're a multi-million dollar company, then...yeah. I offered an mp3 player up as a compromise--I'm flexible. They are not. I'm starting to not even care about going back; I do a lot of freelance writing work and I could probably just expand that and quit my day job.

We're waiting to hear back from the doctor. He hasn't called us back yet and we called as soon as they opened this morning.



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30 Jul 2014, 9:03 pm

Are there speakers on your computer? Can you just play your music on that? I put together a playlist on YouTube and I listen to that when I'm at work (I have different playlists, like "Awesome Music" for when I'm bored, and "Calming Music" for when I'm stressed). You could also put your music on the computer hard drive, or use a service like Pandora.


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30 Jul 2014, 9:22 pm

I'd say file a report with WCB, but I don't know what the American equivalent is.